ATSAP Fix Improves Philly-JFK Routing
Friday, May 18, 2012
As a result of a single ATSAP report, pilots flying between two busy Northeast airports will soon use a route they can program into their flight management systems, making it easier for controllers to issue the route and reducing pilot-controller communications.
Currently, the route between Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York takes planes over an intersection of an airway and a radial from a navaid.
Pilots often have difficulty programming the intersection into their onboard computers, and sometimes say they can’t take the clearance.
Because there was no other available routing, controllers at Philadelphia frequently have to issue radar vectors as part of the clearance, which requires coordination with controllers at New York Center.
On most days, that’s not a big deal. There are only a couple flights from PHL to JFK. But it can be a challenging issue when thunderstorms or other impediments impact the region’s airspace.
When weather or other issues prevent planes from landing at JFK, and they can’t hold in the air any longer, the flights often divert to PHL.
Once the impediment clears, the diverted planes are sent back towards JFK on the complicated routing as previously described.
Often, many of the diverted pilots work for international carriers or have flown across the country. They’ve been in charge of a long flight, faced challenging weather, endured holding and had to divert. They may be unfamiliar with the airspace, and the route they are issued is not straightforward.
All those issues could combine to cause a safety incident. But because a controller filed an ATSAP report, the route is getting safer and more efficient.
Once local and national safety experts studied the issue, the FAA created a new RNAV fix, called WINKK, on an accelerated schedule. The new fix, which is near the intersection of the airway and the radial, was recommended in the controller’s ATSAP report.
“This is a clear example of the positive results of empowering all our employees to be safety experts, said Philadelphia Air Traffic Manager Melveice Harris. “In this situation, the area of risk was identified and a means to mitigate the risk was supplied by the ATSAP submitter. All pertinent parties moved quickly to put the fix in place.”
WINKK is scheduled to be published May 31. Once it’s in place, pilots will be able to program the entire routing into their flight management systems.
The new route is much simpler, taking flights from PHL to three fixes, including WINKK, then to JFK. Pilots will no longer have to worry about the confusing intersection.
The new fix will also increase efficiency at Philadelphia, according to Don Chapman, the NATCA representative at Philadelphia Tower and TRACON.
Controllers there will now be able to issue a simple route and will not have to spend time explaining a manual clearance or coordinating with New York Center controllers.
“It makes it possible for a faster clearance process to take place,” Chapman said.
And the reduction in controller-pilot communication translates to an increase in safety.
“There’s less chance for an error any time you reduce the amount of communications,” he said.
The new fix should also benefit New York Center controllers who are in charge of the airspace where the new fix will be located.
“Any time you add a fix, it has a positive impact on the sector,” said John Higgins, the NATCA vice president at New York Center. “It’s a positive change for us because it clears up the confusion.”